If you had told me 8 years ago that I would soon be exploring the wild outdoors, seeing places very few people ever get to experience, I would have scoffed. With no outdoor experience, having never wild camped or walked a trail, I was out of touch with the nature.Read More
This question is an opportunity to pause and understand ourselves better, otherwise life sort of runs away and our dreams can get left behind. Instead of striving through life and gasping for change we can discover a path where we are connected and follow our intuition. I see it as a stepping stone towards clarity and motivation.Read More
I took a sip from my water bottle. The warm breeze wafted against my face. My eyes met with the greenery of the valley between Monte Brento and Monte Bondone. In the distance, Lago di Garda was a blue canvas on which white dots of sailboats drew invisible lines against the surface of the lake.Read More
Last week I talked to Sarah Outen and spent three days on a little adventure in the wild, so we will be back again with a guest post next week. Enjoy!
Adventure is a word which is used very much these days to describe outdoor activities that, to those who have always done them, are simply what they are; hiking, camping or canoeing, for example. They need no greater moniker to attribute some magical quality to them...Read More
The now coined Andean Giant Expedition 2010, would have me cycling from sea level starting in Caldera, on the Pacific Coast, for five days, a total of 360km to an altitude of 4500m, and this was just the start. The bulk of the next ten days were spent in the Atacama Desert, acclimatising to at least 5800m in preparation for summit day.Read More
Sometimes it’s not about achieving great improbable feats – and I’ve had my share of those. But I am also learning that sometimes it’s about honouring yourself. Saying “no” can be just as important as saying “yes.”Read More
I remember the days when I used to head out everyday Saturday morning, often accompanied by a clanging headache, ringing around my sleepy head, wrapped in the regulation baggy warm garb that I felt marked me out as a snowboarder... cos obviously the snowboard didn't give it away.
On Friday nights I used to dream of powder. And to be fair, on a Saturday morning it often cushioned the impact as my party-night hangover crashed into the weekend...Read More
I'm addicted to hiking. I just love it. Sounds geeky, doesn't it? But I don't care. I head out hiking every weekend and often during the week. If I can't get out, I become grumpy. I've got the bug and I can't (and don't want to) kick the habit. But why do I enjoy it so much?Read More
If you are self employed or running a small business you’ll know that around the Christmas period or holidays in general you still end up doing quite a lot of work.
Often there is nobody else covering your emails or phone calls and you feel you need to be "on it", especially if you are in a start up phase. You want to be giving your business as much attention as possible - you certainly don’t want to be missing out on any lead. Someone who can become a paying customer is a very valuable commodity...Read More
Do you enjoy the great outdoors? Has it had an impact on your life? Perhaps you have just been wild camping for the first time, perhaps nature has helped you to cope with a difficult period in your life or maybe you have been on an epic travel adventure across several continents.
We would love for you to share your stories of success, failure, transformation and adventure with 3500 readers every month...Read More
We woke up on Sunday morning to find a few inches of snow covering Huntingdon. It had been forecast and it delivered.
It's the first time Emma has seen the white stuff in the UK so we went for a walk, had a snowball fight and then came back to build a snow-hermaphrodite in the garden. I thought it was a snowman but Emma corrected me, saying it was a woman, before correcting herself and confirming it was actually both. Anyway, we kept the physical decoration down to a carrot and some pebbles (on its face, before you ask).
It was all a huge amount of family fun, but something kept niggling at me. I yearned to spend more time outside in these rare conditions. It wasn’t enough to tramp around lobbing snowballs. When we were out I walked ahead a little and lay down in the snow, wrapped up warm, face close to ground. There is something friendly and tactile about snow, this and some deep-seated nostalgia for those who see it rarely, that makes one want to be in it. Deep powder requires sitting in. A snow drift needs a snow angel. It is not enough to observe snow. It must be experienced.
There is no better way to momentarily weave yourself into the fabric of nature than sleeping out. So I resolved to have a wild camp on our first (and probably last) night of snow in Cambridgeshire. As the day warmed a little it became evident I wasn’t going to be pitching in deep snow, but with a bit of luck I thought it might cool and we might get another dusting before morning.
"immersion in a dark and inhospitable world, devoid of distractions"
So I headed out around 9pm on Sunday and walked the 3.5km to my favourite wild camping spot. I limited myself to pitching the flysheet and using an old orange survival bag as a groundsheet. By 10:15pm I was all tucked up, phone in pocket, ready to drift off to sleep.
As a story this is somewhat anti-climactic. There is little more to say really. It was cold so I woke three times to answer the call of nature. It rained a little - my prayers for more snow were not answered.
But the experience; the immersion in a dark and inhospitable world, devoid of distractions, was the kind of microadventure that made the following morning’s coffee and toast all the more luxurious. A salutary break from the sophistication of our daily lives.
I use the word “inhospitable" quite happily because although it was the corner of a field, relatively close to home, it is by comparison that we judge such things. I remember an amazing experience, as a teenager, spending one night in deep snow camping under a pine tree... in the garden.
Like last night it was an existence briefly stripped back to the bare minimum in the quest for an “adventure”. You don’t have to go far to find it - it really is largely in the mind.
It turns out it is possible to spend a long weekend in Adelaide. But, no matter how many beers you drink or how many songs you sing, it is quite tiring.
Anyway, in going to great lengths (literally) to prove this fact I did of course ignore this blog. Now, somewhat unsure whether it is dinner time or breakfast, I present a mish mash of stuff that has happened recently. Normal business will be resumed next week (probably).
Business consultant and personal coach, Anna Lundberg, interviewed me for her excellent series Fearless Fridays. It's always strange to talk about my journey of life re-design, especially when I am in it and still unsure of how it will end up.
You can (and watch) read the interview here: Fearless Fridays: From burnout to a better way.
A new business
For the individual, one of the challenges of blogging or setting up and running a web site is the sheer volume of work, often mundane, that is required to try to make it work. In late 2016 I set about trying to alleviate this by farming out some of the work to a virtual assistant.
In the first few months of this outsourcing odyssey my experience was very negative but these days I am trying to find the positive in everything I do. In this case it actually led me to believe I could set up a business that would provide what I was looking for. Not that it doesn't exist, but I just figured I might be able to do it better.
The result is that my business HD Outsourcing pivotted in the second half of 2017 to start providing virtual personal assistants to individuals and small business owners to help them grow by taking away the repetitive tasks. The premise is that any one running a small enterprise, whether a physical business or a blog could better spend his or her time focusing on what they do best and not necessarily on the admin side of things.
It's early days but we are working with a variety of clients who can benefit from my personal experience and the great team of VAs that we are putting together!
I have written a couple of articles with very differing themes. I was very grateful to be asked to write a piece about blogging for the excellent Business of Adventure web site.
Still in the wake of our family adventure in Serbia & Montenegro this summer the Serbian online and print publication Blic, asked me to contribute to a piece about travelling with children. It recently appeared in print and will also be online soon. I will publish an English version soon on this site.
Would you like to write a post?
And talking of new articles, in January 2018 we will start a series of guest posts. So if there is anyone out there who would like to write a post for The Armchair Mountaineer, then get in touch. I would love to feature stories of transformation - tales that demonstrate the power the outdoors in making life happier and healthier.
This week I spoke to outdoor writer Emily Woodhouse, the mind behind Intrepid Magazine; a UK based Female-first Adventure and Outdoors Print Magazine.
The magazine includes; walking, running, cycling, camping, MTB, sailing, rowing, snowboarding, surfing, mountaineering, climbing, exploration, adventures big and small...
"...anything that involves the chance of getting cold, wet and muddy!"
To me this looks like a great idea to give more prominence to women in adventure and inspire new generations to enjoy and to achieve. But, in the last coupe of days, I have also read some differing opinions on social media (from both men and women) so I thought it only fair to ask some questions...
AM: Why a magazine? Isn’t the internet showing itself to be a much better, faster and more effective method of educating the world, informing and helping women in all areas?
EW: The problem with the internet is exactly that. You can have as much information as you like, quicker than ever imaginable before. There is an enormous amount of content out there and everyone’s vying for your attention. I work in marketing and I have seen the constant stream of articles being churned out for the sole purpose of search engine rankings and click through rates. It’s not about the content, it’s about the metrics and that’s made the content somewhat shallow. (We’ve all read it, 8 Things You Need To Know About….).
Because all this information is so readily available we consume it thoughtlessly, we don’t attach any value to it. I wanted to create something different, something physical that people can pick up and give to each other – because somehow that has more meaning than a web page. It’s harder for the world to ignore.
I’m sure SEO writing, Amazon affiliate reviews and listicles have their place but I wanted to create something full of reliable, quality content that you can’t find anywhere else. There’s also something exciting about waiting for a magazine to drop through your door.
AM: Why would a woman who reads a mainstream outdoor magazine switch to Intrepid?
EW: First off, I’m not asking people to switch. I think there’s a gap in the metaphorical magazine rack – many of my readers won’t already buy a magazine. Outdoors magazines are becoming more gender equal but there definitely is some work to be done. Many of them probably don’t realise they’re doing it, it’s so ingrained into society. If I had to give an example of people who’d move to Intrepid they’d be…
- Someone who’s fed up of seeing the kit reviews for men and a small note that a similar product exists for women.
- Someone who is fed up of seeing perfect women plastered across the media, while she comes home muddy, drenched and covered in midge bites.
- Someone who wants to take a stand against the stereotype that women need to have things made “girly” for them to be go outside. Or fashionable.
And, I don’t know, but I feel like a lot for climbing and walking magazines lack the human element. Intrepid is driven by strong stories.
"I’d like to create a positive driving force of counter example"
AM: Do you think you are trying to be everything to everyone by including so many outdoor activities?
EW: I can see why you might say that. I’m calling it “adventure outdoors sport” because I don’t know how else to describe the readership. I guess it’s for people like me.
If you’re a serious cyclist, for example, you’d probably buy a cycling only magazine. But if you’re a dabbler like me you do a bit of cycling, a lot of walking, a bit of mountaineering, wild camping, trying to get into trail running; where do you go? The magazine is for people who like to try new things. They like to be inspired by new ideas and love a good, adventurous story. They wouldn’t look at an article on MTB as irrelevant and annoying, they’d look at it as an invitation to have a go one day. I guess what links them all together is a sense of adventure, enjoying a challenge and being outside – or, inelegantly, getting sweaty and dirty, I guess!
I’ve split the magazine up into roughly four sections: Inspire, Educate, Pathways and Community.
AM: How would you describe your mission?
EW: My mission is for women to be taken seriously in outdoors and active. What does that look like? I guess it’s when I can walk into a gear shop and not see the gear on the men’s side and the casual outdoor fashion on the women’s side. Or find a women’s waterproof without hot pink zips. There’s definitely headway being made in breaking the stereotypes, but I think people are focussing too much on the disparities and the statistics (what percentage fewer girls do sport compared to boys etc). I’d like to create a positive driving force of counter example. Hopefully then instead of seeing the message “it’s really difficult, not many women/girls do it”, the message will become “look how many of us are doing it, and it’s easy look, let us help you”.
"It would be really lovely to see some female ‘experts’ every once in a while"
AM: Are mainstream outdoor print magazines letting women down, misrepresenting them or indeed not representing?
EW: They do feature women, but they’re skewed. There are far more men than women across the board. Now maybe that’s because more men are into the outdoors than women, but I’d like to help bring a bit more balance. Hopefully we can also help the mainstream magazines understand what it is women in the outdoors actually want to read about!
A lot of the articles I’ve seen also seem to be “girl goes and does thing for the first time – if even I can do it, you can do it too”. Now that’s great to encourage people to have a go and I’m not against that. But it would be really lovely to see some female ‘experts’ every once in a while. Women who are at the top of their game.
AM: What do you need to get this project off the ground?
EW: I need support. For this to make a real impact, we need as many people on board as we can. I’ve had some amazing support from contributors, to networking secret agents at Kendal Mountain Festival and so many people saying this is exactly what we need. But ultimately, the best support you could give is to sign up and read the magazine. I’m having the situation with advertisers at the moment where they think it’s a great idea but aren’t prepared to pay for adverts when I have 30 not 30 thousand readers. On a personal level, that means I’m going to make a slightly huge loss on the first issue – mostly because I’m determined to pay the contributors, another part of taking women seriously. I’m going to make it regardless, because I believe in this idea and think it needs to be done, but it would be amazing to have the financial security too.
I see Intrepid as something to rally behind. By buying an issue you’re saying to brands and media and stereotypes: look, this is what we want. This is what we’re really like. And slowly but surely, we’ll change their minds for the better.
How do I get a copy of intrepid magazine?
Issue 1 is only £6, with free UK delivery. There are also some cool subscription offers with discount codes and limited edition t-shirts (choice of over 20 colours!).
The first issue is out in January but the sign up for issue one closes on 9th December 2017 – so you have just 10 days to get the first issue!
You can find more details on the Intrepid Magazine web site here. HURRY UP!
Emily Woodhouse has been in Mountain Rescue for 2 years. She is most likely to be found on a bike, in a tent or pacing around in the dark looking for contour features. Recently, she cycled from Cambridge to Plymouth via Switzerland on a tandem without connecting to WiFi once. Emily's next challenge is launching a UK based print magazine, featuring women in adventure and outdoors, for January 2018.
This is Emily's entry for the Wild Writing Competition:
It was 3 o’clock in the morning by the time we found him. The cynically minded would say it’s a waste of time looking for someone in the dark who doesn’t want to be found. Darkness is easy to hide in. Run circles round the search lights and you’ll never be found. After several hours of startling sheep, I was ready to believe it.
We reached an outcrop. Standing at the bottom, I cast my light once over the rocks and something caught my eye.
“Oh,” I thought, “that looks like a bag. That’s odd”
I stepped into the reeds, to investigate. But my torch light caught a crack in the granite behind and, suddenly, the bag didn’t matter. Between the ebony of the rock and the black of the shadow was a sharp grey corner. It was a shoulder.
We train every week. We practise these exact situations. But I’d never actually been the one to find the casualty. Never. Almost two years in Mountain Rescue and it had never been me. Surprised doesn’t really cover it.
I passed my torchlight across the shoulder again, just to be sure, then down the arm of the grey waterproof. Still not quite believing, I moved round the rocks. I saw a face.
“Nick!” I called, along the search line, “Nick! There’s a person in the tor.”
“You’ve found someone?”
“Yes. I think he might be sleeping. He didn’t move when I shone my light on him.”
In hindsight, this sounds unbelievably naive. We were looking for someone who was trying to take his own life. It never once crossed my mind that he could be dead. Nick gave me the incredulous look I deserved and got straight on the radio.
Four hours ago, I’d been lying in bed when the call came. It was almost midnight. I had to go to work in the morning. I’d just started a new job and I was exhausted. I rolled over, blearily declined the message and rolled back into my duvet.
When I took the first-aider to the casualty, we approached from below. He was wedged deep into the crack, but even in the dark one colour was obvious: red.
After turning down the call, I couldn’t sleep. In fact, I spent the next five minutes very much awake. You’re in the rescue team for heaven’s sake. If people can’t count on you to respond then what’s the point? Who cares if you’ve got work in the morning? I reached for my phone and responded again: Available. 30. Re-evaluated priorities.
I was tasked as the runner between the casualty site and the team, passing snippets of detail across the bog. He had tried really hard: several entire packets of pills, lacerated wrists and an entire bottle of whisky. But he was still alive.
It’s easy to turn down opportunities in life. But you never know how important that thing you turned down will be... or who it will be most important to.
Magsie Hamilton Little is a writer, academic and translator who has written for The Times, the Daily Telegraph, The Daily Beast and The Lady. In 2006 she caught a plane to Afghanistan and subsequently wrote Dancing with Darkness, Life, Death and Hope in Afghanistan, an account of her experiences there. The suffering she saw in Afghanistan inspired her to set up a charity printing books in Kabul and distributing them to Afghan street children. The Thing about Islam followed in 2012 and contributions to various books and publications about the Middle East, including Afghanistan Revealed edited by Caroline Richards. The Sky is on Fire is an account of her time spent living among the nomads of the Kel Ahaggar in central Saharan Africa. Her forthcoming novel, If, is a love story set in WW1. On the rare occasions she finds herself at home she enjoys drinking fresh leaf teas and, upon occasion, has been known to tango.
This is her prize-winning entry to the Wild Writing Competition:
One afternoon I sold my flat. I unplanted myself, like a bean. I closed the front door, gathered up my heartbreak splinters and bought a plane ticket and just like at a crowded, sweaty party where everyone is absorbed in their own separate conversation London did not notice me leaving.
Two days later I was in Tamanrasset in a remote region of Algeria. I saw red light behind my eyelids and felt the crunch of rubber on dust. I breathed it in, this universe of yellow, like a newborn.
The Sahara lay like one of the planet’s limbs, pulsating, throbbing, blanching. Rocks lay like fallen vertebrae, eroded, as if searching for something irrevocably shattered.
The sky’s stare was a white fire that melted rhythm and space. A haze covered the earth. The quicksilver I was wading through was the river inside me. Only the crust of my skin kept me separate.
A figure of an insect took shape, alone in the vast spotlight. A few twigs poked out like punk hairstyles. A tin can clattered across the dust as if someone playing percussion in an orchestra had suddenly rattled the castanets. We were all of us players in this drama of desolation.
On I walked, and my past walked with me, filled with those things I had done and not done. Beyond, the horizon felt unreachable, the distant peaks of the Ahaggar stark and impermeable, a stone curtain separating the two sides of my life – before, when there was hope and after, when it had gone.
Late afternoon the sun’s heat began to wane. The light trickled in liquid caramel and an eerie silence descended, a betwixt and between-ness, as in a lull before battle.
Suddenly, without warning, everything vanished, as if someone had switched off the sky. The power of the darkness was absolute. It commanded the sun to leave and a trillion firefly stars stood to attention. I was vulnerable as a pea.
The tent did not take long to put up. I undressed inside my sleeping bag, relieved to have survived unscathed. The torch made circles on the canvas, a pale ring outside a darker one, a childhood kaleidoscope.
At last the wind’s cry became more pleading, the wailings urgent, stirring the grit and lifting it in gusts, wiping away the tales of the night carved in the sand and cleansing the footprints of creatures that had scampered there, now returned to their secret refuges.
As the first rays pushed up from the plateau, shifting the blues playing in the sky before sunrise tumbleweed flitted in feathery bundles, buffeting half-withered shrubs like lost souls. The luminous globe edged up and light crossed the land, illuminating small details - a red ant sitting on a shimmery, a mother-of-pearl pebble, a prickle of green on orange sand.
One by one, I took the fragments of my past, noble, and dissolute, and buried them in the sand. I glanced back at the immensity of where I had been and felt the white-hot certainty of a life without fear. I was home.
Seanna Fallon is an outdoors, adventure and travel blogger who feels most alive when discovering new things, immersing herself in nature or pushing herself out of her comfort zone for her next challenge. Whether hiking, kayaking or trying something entirely new, the outdoors helps her to be the best version of herself she can be. She also strives to empower other women to find adventure in her role as ambassador at Love Her Wild.
This is her prize-winning entry for the Wild Writing Competition:
Society taught me that if I ever got attacked it would be late at night, I’d be walking alone down a dodgy street, I’d be wearing something revealing and I’d be intoxicated. The first time it happened however, I was working in a coffee shop, wearing my frumpy apron, it was the middle of the morning and I’d only been drinking espresso, and I was attacked by a colleague when I was tidying the stock room.
It took me a long time to come to terms with what had happened. But do you know what my initial response was? Not to go to the police, or tell my manager, or seek support from a loved one. In my state of emotional turmoil, my gut reaction was to straight to the nearest outdoors shop and buy a camp stove.
I remember having no idea what I was going to do with this camp stove – I had never been on an adventure before, but the very act of buying it meant I had to do something. That evening I went home and furiously researched how I could get as far away from this life as possible (on a limited budget), and impulsively booked flights to Kiruna airport in Arctic Sweden with the aim of hiking a section of the Kungsleden.
A few weeks later I found myself making my way on to the trail in Nikkaluokta, wildly unprepared for over a week of solo hiking. I was out of my depth, but when I looked around, I knew I was where I needed to be.
Mountains, rivers and snow that was still unmelted in July, were my backdrop for recovery.
One thing that has stayed with me is the silence. While I tried to process the raging thoughts of the ordeal I had survived, that absolutely unfiltered silence helped my mind to quieten down.
My time in the remote and empty wilderness was better than any therapy I have had since.
I barely saw another soul, so I could live my emotions out loud. I cried like a child, I screamed, I laughed hysterically, I talked to myself, I sang Disney songs at the top of my lungs. I lead a simple existence, hiking 25km each day, setting up my tent by an icy stream where I would gather my water, cooking on my camp stove, writing my deepest thoughts in my journal and reading philosophical novels at night in the Arctic midnight sun.
Honestly, I can say that nature saved me.
Discovering the outdoors helped me to process something I should never have had to deal with. The trauma still affects me, and I’m constantly battling my mental health, but a decade on, I still choose nature as my medicine whenever times get tough.
Nature can’t make suffering go away, but it certainly helps me to cope. The outdoors has made me strong, confident, and ready to face my demons.
To mother nature I say ‘Thank you.’
After reading this article by Bex Band, I made a comment on Twitter that not all who call themselves adventurers are such. So this post is a kind of response to the response I got from that tweet.
I (someone who likes a little adventure) was sitting at the dinner table a few days ago, with my friend Dan (some time adventurer) and my wife, Z (no time adventurer).
"You and your bloody adventures" Z said. "All I hear is the word adventure with you two, I am starting to hate that word".
Now, I would like to point out that this was all tongue-in-cheek, but she has a point. It also made me consider what it actually means and how does one qualify as "an adventurer”.
Firstly I would say that “adventure", per se, is entirely subjective. Of this I am utterly convinced. Don't try to change my mind. My six year old's description of adventure is different to that of Sir Ranulph Fiennes (thank goodness). This does not diminish the achievements of either. Ranulph Fiennes may not be flattered by this comparison, but you get the picture.
So the next question is; are they both adventurers?
In my opinion they are not. Us humans love labels although they don’t always serve us well, and in truth this is probably another of those occasions.
What is an adventurer?
Since starting my blog I have stumbled my way into a world of outdoor recreation, nature and what it turns out is classified as “adventure”. I have over the course of this last year come to the opinion that an adventurer is someone who makes a living from it or devotes a considerable time to adventures. It must be their focus, their main activity.
You do not have to be a professional adventurer, you could be an amateur. It might be that you work a few months to fund an adventure and then go off. Maybe you don't even tell anyone about it. You don't have to have a blog or any social media presence to be an adventurer. It is not the size or nature of the adventures that affects this label either, but it is the time and energy devoted to them. I am not including the time I spend simply dreaming of things I will never do (quality time, by the way - I love it). I mean action, doing, planning, presenting, talking, even the admin side that is related to adventures.
Isn't that all a bit vague?
I suppose so. But you have to draw the line somewhere, don't you? I don’t call myself an electrician even though I have wired some lamps around the house, and I bloody enjoyed it by the way.
Nothing in life is really black and white - there is no exact definition and this post is certainly not about calling out any individuals. Let me put it this way; if my six year old was spending a good length of time planning her wild camps or her little strolls and she was also spending time doing something like talking about it or advocating it as a lifestyle, instead of going to school, she could legitimately call herself an adventurer!
Am I an adventurer?
Nope. Do I enjoy going on what I consider to be adventures. Absolutely, love it. I get an inordinate amount of pleasure from frying up some bacon by a river bank. But nothing I have done has qualified me as adventurer.
Which may beg the question, am I even qualified to answer the question I asked in the first place. But that sounds like a vortex I don’t want to go down.
Seanna Fallon wrote a nice piece about imposter syndrome in this world of adventure and I genuinely don’t want to be the person who shoots down anyone who may wish to define themselves as an adventurer. You have to start somewhere and if you choose that as your path then you deserve support, but it must be your path or there is a risk of a whole load of phoney adventurers.
Does it matter?
In the grand scheme of things, probably not. Except that if we are all by our own definitions; adventurers, then this moniker, whilst admittedly an attractive one, risks becoming rather meaningless.
Al Humphreys has gone as far as saying “Anyone who calls themselves an adventurer is basically a prat.” albeit with the caveat that one may be allowed to do so on a self-promoting web site.
I actually think this is a bit harsh but nevertheless the sentiment is understandable and, for what its worth, in my book he does qualify as one (an adventurer, not a prat).
Anyone who calls themselves an adventurer* is basically a prat.— Alastair Humphreys (@Al_Humphreys) November 14, 2017
You can quote me on that.
(*Disclaimer: in real actual life, to a real person, not on their self-promoting website where it's sort of necessary.)
The time has come to announce the winners of the The Armchair Mountaineer 2017 Writing Competition.
Once again a huge thank you to everybody who took part. It is the first competition to have been run on the pages of this site and I think it was a great success. I sincerely hope there will be many more!
The competition has been judged by Sarah Lister, Alex Roddie, Chris Townsend and me. Each of us cast our votes blind. In fact there were some very differing opinions which really goes to show there wasn’t much between the top few!
And the winner is...
1. Emily Woodhouse: Emily’s entry not only discussed an area of mountain writing which is probably under-represented but also did so in a concise and poignant way. She scored heavily across the board with the judges.
Emily wins: £150 cash, £100 donation to a charity of her choice, a year of Trail Magazine and a signed copy of Icefall by Alex Staniforth.
2. Magsie Hamilton Little: A very close second place goes to Magsie Hamilton whose words deliciously describe a sort of epiphany in the Algerian desert.
Magsie wins: a backpacking tent and three books, each signed by the author.
3. Seanna Fallon: Seanna's story is one that might be a described as needing to be told; a journey from and through pain.
Seanna wins: a goodie bag from The Wildlife Trusts and three books of mountain adventure.
The winning entries will be published next week on this blog.
All of this now just leaves me to say a huge congratulations to the winners and to all who entered, a very very big thank you to the judges; Sarah Lister, Alex Roddie and Chris Townsend, and I hope to see you again next year.
When I set up the writing competition I was thinking very much about my own story; how I have spent more time outdoors in the last year than in the previous 10 and how nature as been both a catalyst and a coping mechanism when re-designing my life.
Over the weekend I re-read many of the submissions, many of which go well beyond anything I imagined. It may sound a little trite but I have been humbled by the whole thing. The response has surprised me and the content has, at times, overwhelmed me.
Revelations and aspirations.
There are some extremely personal stories of physical and mental suffering. 500 words does not allow for too much frill around the edges and perhaps this also means that stories have been stripped back to their core. The good, the bad and the ugly. Reading them I often felt like the writer was opening up to me, personally, sharing something that might otherwise have not been shared.
Some were light-hearted, many were not. Revelations and aspirations. What nearly all had in common was hope, and there can be no greater tribute to the power of nature and the outdoors than to equate it with hope.
Thank you to everyone who entered. It was really hard to get it down to a shortlist. Originally it was going to be a shortlist of five, but then it became seven and the judges will now make their final decisions, so here is the shortlist of writers:
Magsie Hamilton Little
The winner will be announced this time next week!
A massive thank you to everyone who took part - have some virtual cake!
I have just been writing an article for a magazine about how to travel a little more adventurously, with young children and, at the risk of sounding like Carrie Bradshaw, it got me thinking...
How did I manage to get my OWN daughter to enjoy spending time in the outdoors?
Emma is six now and she is pretty adept with an ipad, she loves reading, colouring, cartoons, dressing up, and o of course "anything from Smiggle". Sound familiar?
She has never been either inclined towards sport or to going on long walks across muddy fields. Even at such a young age she is, what would once have been described as; "ladylike".
Two years ago I would drag her out on a Sunday morning to Brampton Wood or Godmanchester Nature Reserve and coax her around the paths for a maximum of an hour, dangling various treats as a reward for humouring her father's desire to feel the kiss of nature and a few moments of wildness.
"When are we going home?" This refrain would enter the conversation from around 15 minutes, until we got back to the car. Now things have changed somewhat. Not so drastically that she doesn't start asking for her bear snacks from minute 5, but her enjoyment is greatly increased.
I don't know if this is easy to replicate (I only have one child) but here is what's happened to change her perception of the outdoors.
1. INVENT A NEW WORLD
When we are out walking we have invented fantastical and magical adventures that we imagine ourselves to be in. This works anywhere.
To make things even more real build a den in a wood. This is as much fun for me as it is for Emma!
2. DON'T OVER DO IT
I keep walks to a distance I know is palatable so as not to put her off forever (around 5km at the moment). Its a good idea to plan longer walks when there are other people around to keep her distracted / entertained (especially other children).
3. JOIN IN SOMETHING BIGGER
We took part in The Wildlife Trusts 30 Days Wild (I may have told her it was a competition) which was amazing as it fired her enthusiasm for doing something wild and introduced her to a wide variety of different aspects of nature and getting outside.
4. MAKE IT A LEARNING EXPERIENCE
She became interested in bugs, in a slightly more scientific way. We encouraged this and spent time in the garden cultivating this fascination. Looking for and handling them has largely desensitized her to creepy crawlies which is often something that puts children off the outdoors. The same is true for other wildlife, such as snakes. By looking for them, finding them and learning about them they become a subject of interest rather than fear.
5. CHANGE THE RULES!
I think it is important to associate the outdoors with freedom; paddling in the river on a warm day, stripping off and jumping in a lake, splashing with shoes in a stream to cool down. These are all elements that make for an exciting time. Letting your kids get plastered in mud or soaking wet can be a positive thing!
6. TRY WILD CAMPING
Her first experience was on a warm summer's night, with a big inflatable mattress. Although the late evening light was a problem I made sure the experience was pretty cushy. I also left it a while before the next wild camp because she hadn't slept well and although it was exciting it is not something she would have volunteered to do the next day!
7. ORGANISE MICROADVENTURES
I allowed her to be actively involved in our microadventures; choosing the path, inflating a packraft, having a go at paddling, flying a kite, identifying creatures (whether real or imagined), "helping" to pitch a tent or cooking marshmallows on the fire.
Emma is a long way off the "tomboy" I once imagined my daughter would be, but she has shown an amazing ability to appreciate and enjoy the outdoors and consequently to learn so much about our planet and enrich her (and my) life.
Let me know how you have done it; tips, tricks or indeed frustrations. You can comment below or visit our Facebook page and get involved!